The week ahead of us is set to be one of the biggest ever for fans and players of Dota 2 and esports in general. With a total prize pool at a record breaking USD$17 Million plus, The International 5 (TI5) is currently in its group stage with sixteen teams battling it out for placement before the main event kicks off August 3.
The matches from the wildcard and group stages alone have easily been some of the most thrilling so far, and TobiWan’s commentating is definitely a fan favourite. All round Valve have stepped up on production value and made almost every aspect of the streams enjoyable to watch – with one particular stand. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the scale and spectacle of the event and forget the people that make up the competition, and this is where the short player profile films really shine.
Valve is no stranger to showing the personal side to esports, previously producing the documentary Free to Play on Dota 2’s 2011 International. The documentary (available to watch free on Youtube) stars three professional players, Benedict ‘Hyhy’ Lim, Danil ‘Dendi’ Ishutin and Clinton ‘Fear’ Loomis, and centres around how their lives are impacted by Dota 2, regarded as quite an important documentary for the furthering of esports.What Valve has done for TI5 is similar but on a smaller scale, creating short films for each team that showcase one of their players. They’re not a simple interview, instead they add a narrative quality to the tournament, giving us a glimpse at how the players themselves got to where they are today, taking care to showcase the families, partners and friends of each. Whether you’re a newcomer to the game and TI5 or a seasoned veteran, you’re sure to learn something new about the people who make up one of the biggest tournaments on the planet.
It helps that they’re really beautifully shot, using home towns and personal places to draw out that emotional impact the videos have. Seeing the proudness and support from families of players even when they didn’t quite understand the scale of competitive online gaming is really quite special, shown in the profiles of Team Secret’s s4 and Evil Genius’ SumaiL.
S4 – Gustav Magnusson – is a young player from Sweden who now plays the role of mid in Team Secret. At The International 3 he and the rest of team Alliance managed to take the top spot against competitors Natus Vincere, winning a whopping $1,437,191. After leaving Alliance in late 2014 S4 joined team secret, with the aim of becoming the first player to have two TI wins under his belt – and the way they’re playing Team Secret is definitely on their way. The short film showcases his journey so far but also looks at how he grew up with gaming and his ambition that brought him to the professional stage in the first place.
SumaiL – Syed Hassan – grew up playing Dota with his cousin from the age of 8. After moving with his family to America from Pakistan at the age of fifteen he was soon picked up by the manager of Evil Geniuses to play the role of mid for the team. In his player profile his cousin speaks about playing Dota in the gaming cafes of Pakistan and how different it is over there to America for competitive gaming. With the support of his family, SumaiL and Evil Geniuses are well on track to challenge Team Secret for that winners spot, strong contenders for the title.
These are really only two examples, with plenty more equally great ones in the streams and on Dota 2’s Youtube.
Not only do these short films help to make esports much more personal and accessible at such a grand stage, they also represent an attention to the community surrounding Dota 2. Since the streams went up there have been multiple reddit threads celebrating the content and getting behind their favourite players. These player profiles are an absolute win for Valve.
The player profiles of the TI5 are a fantastic example of just how much esports has grown, with tens of thousands of people tuning in to cheer for the players and teams involved. They also point out how unique and diverse the player group is, with players coming from all sorts of backgrounds and banding together on the world stage, but at the end of the day it’s rather beautiful to see how proud and supportive close friends and family are to each of these players. That feeling of knowing and empathising with members of each team will undoubtedly have new and old fans watching intently, cheering until the final ‘gg’ is called.